Health / AIDS

Drug-resistant malaria appears to have taken hold in much of Myanmar, and scientists aren’t exactly sure how. It may have spread here from elsewhere, or it may have emerged independently, but in any case, the strategy to fight it seems set for a major change.

The refugees fleeing Myanmar, from the Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority, have been persecuted for decades. They have been evicted from their homes and kicked off their land, and attacked by the military and by Buddhist extremists in Rakhine, the western coastal state where they live. Their voting rights were effectively revoked in February. Their government insists that they are in the country illegally, and most neighboring countries refuse to accept them.

A Police force “special project” to reduce sexual crime during Thingyan has resulted in registered contraceptive pills – and even condoms – being pulled from shelves, in a move health professionals say is highly misguided. (more…)

HIV-positive patients are concerned for the future quality of their medical options as the government takes control of HIV care and aims to largely decentralise treatment to the township level by next year.

Myanmar riot police March 4 corralled dozens of student protesters calling for education reform after activists defied official orders to disband and the tense deadlock entered a third day. (more…)

Burma has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Asia; UNAIDS estimated that about 190,000 people in Burma were living with HIV in 2013, and that about 11,000 died that year from the incurable illness. The country’s overloaded and under-resourced health system—Burma spends less per capita on health care than any other nation in the world—offers minimal assistance for HIV-positive patients, who also suffer from severe social stigma. (more…)

The number of people contracting HIV in Burma decreased between 2000 and 2013, according to a new UN report, which also said there are still 189,000 people in the country living with the virus.

Myanmar has received a sum of US$ 160 million from the Global Fund to combat HIV/AIDS from 2013 to 2016, according to the Health Planning Department under the Ministry of Health. (more…)

Sittwe. Aid workers are calling for better health access for an estimated 140,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, most of them Rohingya Muslims. (more…)

Chelsea Clinton is carrying out some of her father’s globe-trotting work in a country where her mother blazed a diplomatic trail — Myanmar. (more…)

Relief camps in Kyaukphyu are still dealing with insufficient water and food supplies, according to camp committee representatives. (more…)

Myanmar’s victims of sectarian strife were spared the full force of Cyclone Mahasen, but many are now returning to flimsy tents in flood-prone camps with the monsoon just weeks away. (more…)

More than 125,000 displaced Rohingya in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State are bracing for this year’s punishing monsoon rains.

After her heroin-addict husband died five years ago, Ei Ei Phyu discovered she was HIV-positive. She thought her life was over until friends directed her to the open-air clinic here where she receives antiretroviral medicine.

Myanmar may receive an additional funding package of up to US$89.5 million to fight HIV, TB and Malaria following a visit by a Global Fund team to assess the funding gap in prevention and treatment of the diseases. (more…)

Burma democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has been appointed an ambassador of the UN’s programme on HIV and AIDS and has been tasked with fighting discrimination against people living with the disease, the agency said Tuesday. (more…)

Bangkok – Myanmar is on course to eliminate new HIV/AIDS infections among children by 2015 but sustained investment, attention to cross-border movements and a focus on those most at risk are needed to achieve this, the head of the United Nations agency for HIV/AIDS says. (more…)

Rangoon – Thein Aung has been trained not to show weakness, but he’s convinced no soldier is strong enough for this. (more…)

Yangon – Health workers in Myanmar are confident that efforts to narrow the country’s huge gap between access to, and need for, life-saving medicines to treat HIV/AIDS are back on track after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria invited the country to apply for additional funding.

“I would not have dreamt that this was possible last November,” said Peter Paul de Groote, head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Myanmar, referring to the Global Fund’s cancellation of funding that health workers in Myanmar were relying on to expand access to antiretrovirals (ARVs).

Instead, MSF has been forced to turn away people in need of ARVs. “It’s a trauma for patients sent away and for our staff,” said de Groote.

The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates 18,000 people die of AIDs-related illnesses annually in Myanmar.

The agency’s coordinator for Myanmar, Eamonn Murphy, said new funds will allow the country to close a “treatment gap” where only one-third of the 120,000 people nationwide who need ARVs receive them.

Health officials drafted a “concept note” outlining how additional funding might be used, which will be reviewed by the Global Fund’s board, Murphy said. It offers two scenarios: the first ensures 85 percent of those who need ARVs receive them by 2015; while with the second, 76 percent of people would be covered, he said. Based on feedback from the board, the government will choose a strategy for the proposal to be submitted early next year.

A spokesman for the Global Fund said it “had encouraged an application by the country for more money” following an August visit to Myanmar by its general director. Additional funding “could make possible an even faster scale-up of HIV treatment.”

Health workers say government healthcare reforms – including a first-time government allocation of US$2.4 million for ARVs this year – as well as a recent managerial shakeup at the Global Fund, have opened the way to boost HIV funding in Myanmar. The Global Fund has installed new managers and is developing a different funding model to be piloted next year that will “invest more strategically”, according to the fund.

Top priority

Health experts in Myanmar agree ARVs are a top priority for the country and that getting more money is contingent on proving “targeted, tight and strategic” interventions can have quick and major impacts.

De Groote said that due to lack of funding thus far, only HIV-positive patients with counts of CD4 – a white blood cell that targets infection – of 150 or below are eligible for ARVs at MSF clinics (the main provider of ARVs nationwide), while the World Health Organization (WHO) advises treatment for everyone whose CD4 counts are 350 or below. A CD4 cell count is one way of measuring the strength of a patient’s immune system as well as how advanced an HIV infection is.

Besides expanding ARV access, the government is also applying for additional money to combat tuberculosis (TB). The country’s TB prevalence is nearly three times the global average and twice the regional average, according to a 2010 survey by the country’s TB programme and WHO.

The current Global Fund support to fight TB in Myanmar was granted in 2009, based on old data that underestimated prevalence by about 50 percent, according to MSF.


TAUNGBYONE, Burma — Burma’s AIDS epidemic mostly affects marginalized groups, such as the gay community. In a country where homosexuality remains illegal, finding and treating gay patients is a challenge for the few health workers devoted to their treatment. An annual religious event called a Nat festival, however, is one time when the gay community can network – and talk to health workers about treatment. (more…)

Next Page »